BY Neal Broverman
September 29 2009 1:50 PM ET
You were the executive producer of Swingtown, a CBS drama from last
year that looked at suburban party animals in the ’70s. Do you think it
would have lasted longer if it was on a premium cable network?
Unquestionably it would have been different. We got with Swingtown --
during the summer, which is low ebb for network viewership -- 5 or 6 million viewers a week. That is not enough to keep a
show alive on network, but on any basic or premium cable network [it] would make it a huge hit. I believe the show would have survived on cable. On the other hand, I don’t feel that we were hindered by being on
network. As proud as I am of Swingtown,
on HBO or Showtme it wouldn't really have been groundbreaking. It would
have been good, but that level of sexual explicitness and mature
thematic material is a given on cable. You can imagine people watching the pay
cable version and saying, “Of course they’re going to fuck the neighbors.” But on
CBS, it’s, “Oh my God, they’re going to fuck the neighbors.” I’m not
happy the show didn’t last beyond one season, but I’m thrilled CBS put
it on the air.
Above: Tales of the City
What project do you look back at most fondly?
Six Feet Under was five years of my life, so it was the longest
continuous job I’ve ever had and clearly the best job I’ve ever had. It
was a golden age for HBO, a golden time for me. The relationship with
Alan Ball was the longest and most fulfilling creative relationship
I’ve ever had. We kept so much of the same crew and writers for the
entire run. It was an astonishingly stable and joyful workplace to go to.
The other is the Tales of the City series. Having been able to have and
maintain that relationship with [Tales of the City author] Armistead Maupin, who remains a very close
friend, and having nurtured that project from the beginning was wonderful. That’s the
other long-term achievement I’m most proud of. They’re also saying when
the first Tales aired in 1994, there was a huge watershed because there
weren’t characters on network TV showing affection towards each other
in same-sex relationships. When the first series aired on PBS, there
were death threats and we were condemned on floors of several state
legislatures. If you look at how the bar has moved in the 15 years
since, there’s virtually nothing in the first Tales of the City
miniseries that couldn’t be shown on network TV. What was really
shocking and controversial then was that it dared to treat same-sex
relationships exactly the same as heterosexual relationships. Now, it
doesn’t seem outrageous and controversial, which makes me feel really
good about where we’ve come to.